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For growth, scalability, innovation - it has to be true cloud

Aaron Harris Profile picture for user Aaron Harris December 16, 2018
Businesses that seek growth, scalability and innovation are looking to the cloud - and it needs to be true cloud. Sage Intacct's Aaron Harris explains why

Businessman walking up cloud stairs with red growth arrow on blue sky © Photomontage - shutterstock
(© Photomontage - shutterstock)
Growth, scalability, and innovation have been the calling cards of technology since the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company changed its name to IBM in 1924. And technology has come a long way since the use of punch cards. High growth companies seeking a technological advantage today are looking to the cloud. And not just any cloud, but true cloud which hinges on several key elements – multi-tenancy, elastic infrastructure, high configurability, self-service expansion, and integration APIs.

Not everyone in our industry is clear on these points. There remains an element of confusion – even misdirection in some cases – about what true cloud is, and why it matters. Even the definitions of these true cloud elements are misunderstood. Let's clear the air.

Let me start by clearing a little space between the terms growth and scalability. Growth is the increase of mission-specific results within an organization. For a business, this might mean more revenue, customers, or profits. Within a nonprofit, this may mean more patrons served, funds collected and distributed, or trees planted.

Scalability, though tied to growth, refers to an organization’s ability to handle growth without a proportional increase in resources. For instance, can you handle twice as many customer invoices without adding twice as many accounts receivable clerks? Or can you report across three times more locations without adding finance staff?

Growing on true cloud

Growth brings more than just more transactions. It also brings more complex transactions. Growth often calls for processes to manage larger quantities of things. For example, double the number of sales orders means double the number of sales quotes, shippers, and sales invoices – as well as a bump in the number of returns. It also means categorizing and subdividing information, so people can still get their heads around it. In data terms, even geometric growth in revenue can lead to exponential growth in data just due the complexities of growth.

A multi-tenant cloud system allows for this tremendous growth by providing near limitless capacity for processing and storage. Because thousands of companies share resources on a multi-tenant or true cloud, the system is built to handle unexpected spikes, with constant monitoring to maintain overall capacity three to four times greater than daily usage. To use a water analogy, a multi-tenant system is like a huge reservoir, with a dam that is always raised to stay multiple times higher than the current water level. Even if the highest growth companies doubled overnight, the impact would hardly be noticed, since the aggregate of all companies is growing at a predictable rate.

A single tenant system, where each client is individually deployed on an internet server, can’t adapt as quickly to growth spurts because engineers just can’t monitor and enhance the whole system in aggregate. Rather than a single reservoir, a single tenant system is like storing rainwater in thousands of separate buckets. As each bucket fills up, it needs to be replaced with a bigger bucket, requiring lots of bucket engineers and possible spills during busy times.

By its very nature, a true cloud system invites clients to grow with confidence.

Scaling on true cloud

Scaling with growth comes down to automating – automating how data gets in and out of the system and automating data-driven decisions and tasks. In true cloud, with thousands of clients working off the same code base, systems have to account for thousands of individual differences. APIs (application programming interfaces) allow for individual data exchanges with external systems such as CRMs or payroll providers. They make it possible for clients to connect to their other services while setting rules around how those connections send and receive data.

Additionally, true cloud provides clients with ways to set their own actions with their own rules or policies within the system. And they do it in a way that those actions and rules continue to work without costly and time-consuming upgrades, even as the main applications get updated.

Innovative power of true cloud

The sheer processing power of true cloud expands the possibilities for innovation. Under the architecture of a true cloud system, developers can innovate to solve large data issues that just can’t be solved on limited, single-server solutions. True cloud is also where AI will come of age – because intelligent applications that learn from past actions will have billions of transactions to teach them.

All this innovation isn’t bottled up in some super computer. With true cloud, deployment becomes a matter of course for all clients on the same application base. Every client becomes the recipient of business-changing innovation. And with thousands of tenants to care for, true cloud providers have to invest heavily in staying ahead of changing regulations and latent technology. This means true cloud providers become the vanguard for each new wave of solutions tackling tomorrow’s problems.

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